Friday, June 14, 2013

Man of Steel

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I'm not trying to brag or anything but...I've knelt before Zod.

Man of Steel – 5 out of 5

I’m just going to get right to it and not play coy here…I absolutely LOVED Man of Steel!

**Warning:  This review may contain some spoilers**

Superman is an American icon and by now his origin story is passed on through cellular memory from parent to zygote but here’s a synopsis of the film anyway…

The planet Krypton is dying and the hope of its people reside in the offspring of Jor-El (Russell Crowe). The baby is sent to Earth where his alien DNA will grant him amazing powers due to its reaction with the solar system’s yellow sun. Confused with his place in the world, the young man—growing up with the name Clark Kent—wanders the country for meaning until the day he comes upon a great, ancient alien craft and he learns who he really is; Kal-El, the wayward son of the dead planet Krypton. Unfortunately, he’s not the only one who comes upon planet-shattering info (oops, too soon, Krypton?).

                                                                                       Warner Bros. Pictures/Warner Bros.
"I'm actually sending you to Earth, son, in order to really piss off those guys
who hate illegal immigrants.  You're going to make them shit themselves."

General Zod (Michael Shannon), a powerful military leader exiled for his attempted coup on his home planet, has discovered that one of his citizens is alive and has come to Earth to claim him because, within Kal-El, rests the resurrection of his home world and lost people. Kal-El is now forced to hand himself over to Zod or he will see the world that has become his home suffer immeasurable torment and destruction. However, resigning to the whims of a power-hungry dictator may not be the answer as Zod seeks to create a new Krypton and build it on the ashes of Earth. Now, Kal-El—Superman—needs to utilize all his realized potential and power to protect the world he calls home and the people he has dedicated his life to protecting.

                                                                                     Warner Bros. Pictures/Warner Bros.
"To Kal-El, I say're a big, fat poopy face!"

Just a heads up, this review is going to be a gushing one because I really, REALLY enjoyed this reboot to the Superman franchise. Superman has been a staple of my life since I was a little boy and I grew up watching Christopher Reeve in the 1978 film. I wasn’t a fan of the rest of the films with Reeve (although, I really enjoyed the Richard Donner cut of the second one; it was a vast improvement) and I was less than thrilled with Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. While that one wasn’t awful, it wasn’t doing much to really take the character of Supes and run with it. Brandon Routh felt like he was trying too hard to be Christopher Reeves and many of the elements I was hoping the film would focus on were introduced but never really became the emphasis I thought they were going to try to show and encapsulate—for example, the incredible loneliness Superman feels being the last of his kind and, despite being their protector, is truly not one of the people he watches over. However, I really enjoyed Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor.

Man of Steel, on the other hand, really brought the character of Superman to a whole new level and Zack Snyder really showed what the Big Blue Boy Scout is capable of. There’s a lot I enjoyed about this movie and, to be honest, I’m having a hard time thinking about one thing that I didn’t care for. This was the film I was most looking forward to for the summer movies of 2013 and have all but worked myself into a frenzy watching every bit of video that was released for it on the internet and keeping up on all the news I could find about its production. There was the very real potential this film was going to let me down but, you know what, I was MORE than satisfied.

                                                                                      Warner Bros. Pictures/Warner Bros.
"That's right, army guys...drink me in.  Drink in every inch of me..."

First off, the cast was filled with tremendous actors and each and every single one of them brought something to the table that can only be described as beyond their A-game. Russell Crowe really dominated as Jor-El and, in my opinion, surpassed the man who set the bar for Kal-El’s father all those years ago. Thanks right, I’m saying that Crowe was better as Superman’s dad than Marlon Brando! And that’s not to say that Supes’ Earth-bound parents weren’t as good—far from it! Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as Martha and Jonathan Kent were addicting to watch as they assisted in making Superman both a vulnerable character and a man of unshakable morals as their warmth and compassion towards their adopted son was very palpable and the chemistry they showed on screen to the actors portraying the various ages of Clark was very deep and very convincing—and I have to give it up to the kids playing the younger Superman, they were very fantastic and really made the idea of an alien boy coming to grips with his developing powers feel real and authentic. Honestly, Kevin Costner was so good, so touching and so emotionally powerful as the quiet but noble and honest Jonathan Kent that I really wanted to see more of him and see more of Superman’s origin story—even though we have seen this origin story a million times over.

                                                                                      Warner Bros. Pictures/Warner Bros.
Somehow, mysteriously, someone began to cut onions during this scene.

You can’t have Superman without Lois Lane and Amy Adams really made the character a dominating presence in the film. Margo Kidder has been the industry standard for this iconic character in my head every since I first watched Superman and it was very refreshing to see Adams portray the character in a way that didn’t feel like she was trying to fit into Kidder’s shoes but rather blaze her own path. I loved Kidder as the no-nonsense, snarky, powerful business woman reporter for the Daily Planet but I also really enjoyed the way Adams played it. While there were the times when she was the typical comic book role for women and was the damsel in distress, there was also a touch of confidence to her character that spoke volumes for her being a prize winning writer but Adams also added a hint of vulnerability and confusion as she learns of the existence of this powerful man from another world.

                                                                                      Warner Bros. Pictures/Warner Bros.
"...yeah, so I passed on the offer from TMZ and ending up working for The Daily
Planet.  I really dodged a bullet there."

Then you have the true heart of the film; our hero and villain. Both Henry Cavill as the man in the red cape and Michael Shannon as the villain known for his intense desire to have people bow to him, grabbed this film by the hand and guided it through its story at a fast, furious and fun pace. Shannon nearly stole the entire film and commanded the attention of everyone as General Zod but not only was he intimidating as all hell (that guy had some great crazy eyes and twitches going one when he was angry) but he was able to show that the villain really believed what he was doing was right. There was a tragedy to Zod that Shannon found the perfect balance for as he kept it hidden under his Kryptonian armor, yet letting just enough peak through that, while you understand Zod is a bad dude who wants to rule and it doesn’t matter how many bodies are left in his path or the size of the wake of destruction, you also see that he is doing what he was born to do and is following through on what he thinks is his destiny and what he’s meant to daccomplish.

                                                                                      Warner Bros. Pictures/Warner Bros.
Sweet Salted Snacks!  This is just a picture of Michael Shannon as Zod and I'm
already feeling compelled to kneel.

Superman is always the hardest because, like Margo Kidder’s portrayal of Lois Lane, Reeve is the go-to image that many people, including myself, think of when the Last Son of Krypton enters our head. There was an honesty and sincerity to the role that Reeve created that hasn’t been replicated since. Routh, when not sounding bored, seemed too busy with crafting a Reeve impression to be Superman in 2006 and, there was no doubt in my head, that finding the right man to be Superman, even in this new rebooted version that makes some alterations to his origin, must have been an incredibly difficult obstacle. Henry Cavill though, seemed to be the perfect man for the job and really, truly, honestly looked like he was Superman. I don’t mean he did a great job playing him—I mean he really seemed like he was Superman.

                                                                                      Warner Bros. Pictures/Warner Bros.

I imagine it has to be difficult to play Superman because, although he may seem like a one-dimensional hero who sees the world through the eyes of a child that only knows what’s around him in terms of “good” and “bad,”  but there is a precarious perch that this hero resides on that, if straying too far to one side, an actor will make Superman look silly in his goodness and end up looking more like a parody than anything else and, if you stray too far the other way, you lose everything that is Superman. Cavill really hit that balanced perfectly and has now replaced Reeve in my head as the one true Superman.

I really felt Kal-El’s desire to do good and protect the people he’s come to know as his brothers and sisters. I really felt his indestructible moral code and felt the pain and heartache when he’s forced to go against what he stands for to protect what he cares for the most. Cavill’s performance was incredibly strong and he, along with many other aspects of the film, made the character feel less like the collection of pencil, ink and paint marks I’ve come to know and love for all these years in the pages of comics and made him feel like a real person. That is, by far, one of the film’s strongest aspect: The fact it feels real.

                                                                                       Warner Bros. Pictures/Warner Bros.
There's something very striking about seeing Superman in handcuffs and being
lead around by the military.

Yes, I realize Superman is an alien who gets a power-high from the sun’s rays like Popeye eating spinach. He shoot lasers from his eyes, can freeze shit with his breathe, can fly, has x-ray vision and a whole host of extras, so there is a suspension of disbelief that is pretty much required for watching this film but Man of Steel has a certain magic going for it that lends a sense of legitimacy to the story and mythology that makes Superman not only seem like a real-life character but the entire mythos appears capable of existing in our universe. Like what was done with The Dark Knight trilogy, Zack Snyder and writers David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan gave Superman a sense of authenticity and made him look less like a comic book hero and more like a real-life awesome spectacle.

                                                                                       Warner Bros. Pictures/Warner Bros.
"With my beard and your fashion sense, we're unstoppable, Christopher Nolan!"

The story to Man of Steel unfolded amazing well and made the movie flow smoothly to the point that the two hour and change running length flew by. Forgoing doing a linear origin tale, the film has the main story progressing with flashback sequences cut in to help illustrate Clark’s developing powers and his increasing sense of detachment when he learns he’s not of this planet. This back and forth made the film feel like a jigsaw puzzle that kept adding to the character of Superman and you learn more and more of the man and become more and more emotionally invested in him and his journey. Obviously, being a comic geek and a Supes fan, I was on Superman’s side before this damn film even came out but I really enjoyed the story and plot’s format because it only assisted in investing the viewer into Superman.

Hey and did I mention that Christopher Meloni is in it?  Well, he is and we all know he is awesome!

                                                                                      Warner Bros. Pictures/Warner Bros.
"I'm still waiting on confirmation if this is a knife or not..."

The film also doesn’t disappoint with the action either. Once Kal-El realizes who he is and is ready to take up the family crest, the action starts and doesn’t stop—even after you think the film is over. The fight scenes are raw, visceral and brutally fun to watch. Collateral damage is the name of the game as Superman, Zod and the General’s army leaves a trail of destruction that goes from Smallville to Metropolis. It was like the invasion in The Avengers but on an even larger, higher property damage, scale…and then Snyder takes it up another notch when it finally comes down to Zod and Superman.

                                                                                       Warner Bros. Pictures/Warner Bros.
You're being shot at, Superman.  Now is not the time to dance.

The one thing, though, I loved and enjoyed more than any other aspect of the film was the fact that this is the first time I’ve watched a Superman film (a live-action one, not an animated one) where I really got to feel the true strength of the hero. Every punch, every blast of heat vision, experiencing his flight and seeing him hit super sonic speeds…each and every time he does what he is known for, the images blasted across the screen nearly perfectly and really showcase how powerful this character is. Seeing Zod’s minions be blasted in the face, watching tank-busting bullets bounce off the crest on his chest, seeing and hearing the crushing concrete when he came crashing to the ground in a fight that looked and sounded amazing thanks to unbelievable images, rocking special effects and terrific sound. I repeat; this is the first time I really got a true sense of how powerful he is. Granted there were effects limitations when Reeves wore the tights but this time there were no limits—just like Superman’s abilities.

Like any reboot, some liberties were taking to make the story fresh and new. The changes weren’t too grand in my opinion but they did help craft a unique vision to Superman’s overly familiar story. For the sake of spoilers, I won’t go into much detail with these new revisions but a part of the reason that Jor-El sent his only son to Earth is tweaked a little, along with some aspects of Krypton’s society. There’s also the fact that Jimmy Olsen wasn’t in the film and was replaced by a woman named Jenny—this, not surprisingly, had the internet in an uproar. Since I never gave a single, solitary fuck about Jimmy Olsen, his absence meant nothing to me. In fact, the character of Jenny actually has a great, emotionally powerful scene during the assault from Zod’s army with Perry White (Laurence Fishburne)…and that brings me to the next change that left the fanboys with some butthurt—the fact that Perry White wasn’t white. This was another moment where actually altering the character (not to mention using an extremely talented actor) only improved a character that, up to this point, I never cared about. The only complaint I have with having Fishburne play Perry White is that my dreams of having him play The Martian Manhunter in a Justice League movie will never happen…or will it? No, probably not.

                                                                                      Warner Bros. Pictures/Warner Bros.
Or, maybe in a terrible M. Night Shyamalan twist, he was J'onn J'onzz the
whole time...actually, I shouldn't have written that because Hollywood
probably read that and will do it.  I'm embarrassed now.

I can’t help but gush about how much I enjoyed Man of Steel and how much bloody fun I had watching this movie. It was the film I was most excited to see this summer and it didn’t disappoint me. It grabbed my attention during the opening seconds and it just kept grabbing more and more as the film progressed. Goyer and Nolan wrote an amazing story and Snyder presented it with an amazing eye and kept it from becoming—for lack of a better descriptive—Snydered. Instead of the often parodied love of slo-mo that Zack has, he gave us a fast pace, ground-disrupting, action-filled superhero movie that not only brings Superman into a new era but also has enough respect for the source material that it simultaneously felt fresh and familiar to me—I also really enjoyed the hidden gems and nods-and-winks to the comics littered throughout the film.

                                                                                    Warner Bros. Pictures/Warner Bros.
I geeked out when I saw all the LexCorp stuff thrown in...not to mention a
reference to a certain man in a cape and cowl who is known for teaming with

Man of Steel, however, is more than just a figurative god blasting bad guys in the face and throwing trains around like they are made of Styrofoam. The film had character to it and, most of all, an emotional story that really made me feel a strong connection to a character that, while always beloved as an immaculate hero throughout my years, used to feel unrealistic and untouchable. Snyder changed that and, with the help of an amazing cast, made Superman an emotional and vulnerable being. Basically, they made the Kryptonian human and I’m not afraid to say that seeing the struggles that Superman went through, his nearly impossible odds, and, the interaction between him and his loved ones, really tugged on my heartstrings and made me tear up more than once. (You can’t tell me you didn’t tear up when Papa Kent told young Clark that, despite being an alien, he is his son or that you didn’t almost claim to have something in your eye when you saw Clark, in full Superman gear, hug Martha on the porch of her Kansas home.)

                                                                                      Warner Bros. Pictures/Warner Bros.
I got goosebumps the moment they showed Krypton.

I know the critics have been mixed on this film but, unlike them, I thought this was just an incredible movie that hit all the right notes to resonate with me. The story was strong, the action was incredible on a level that I am still at a lost for words trying to perfectly sum up how epically grand it was, the cast was firing on all cylinders and each made their characters come to life in an entertaining and realistic way, and there was just enough humor thrown in to back up the heavy emotions being tossed around the entire running length. I honestly want to see it again and again and again and keep seeing it until the Blu-Ray comes out. Overall, I have to say that this is the best Superman film I have ever seen and I mean that.

1 comment:

  1. OK, well I may completely disagree with you about 1978's Dr. Strange TV Movie, but we agree 100% about Man of Steel. It's my favorite superhero movie ever:

    1- Man of Steel
    2- The Avengers
    3- X-Men: Day of Future Past
    4- The Dark Knight
    5- Watchmen
    6- X2/Spider-Man 2 (really can't decide which one is better, so I cheat!)

    For me, MoS is like an art film superhero movie, the oddest combination of styles I think I've ever seen. And it rocked me, moved me & knocked my socks off (may even have stole my shirt off my back & took off with my pants as well) you might say this film left me naked.

    The film explores issues of freedom & fascism; being outcast & alone with no idea how to bridge the chasm to a world that would see & embrace you; sacrifice & conviction, along with all the pain & virtue, altruism it depicts for some to see & others to be blind to (now that's risky film making!); the joy of self discovery & how that makes anyone soar above the clouds. In many ways, this film takes the figurative & makes it literal.

    Reeve never really felt like Superman to me; his performance was excellent in some ways yet I never felt he was truly working within himself. I was an actor & director for some years, and in the business, ppl talk about how you either "act" or deliver a genuine portrayal, a fine performance. Whatever words used, one either puts on an act or they reach inside themselves to find the character. Reeve never went beyond "acting" (as a matter of fact he would spend the rest of his career working to unlock that sense of being himself in his roles); oddly & tragically enough, he accomplished that most difficult of challenges for a young actor in one of his last films, "Death Dreams", playing a villain. Reeve always said it was hard for him to show anger & be menacing. It's telling because if you can't dig in & break out of yourself, be "real", nothing you do will be & feel authentic & genuine. It's a horrible tragedy what happened to Reeve.

    But with Henry Cavill, I felt that sense of genuine & authentic from the very first frame. Never forced, always within himself, perfect!

    This may be a superhero movie in the beginning of a Golden Age of Superheroes on film, but Man of Steel stands apart, is unique & unto itself. That it is the start of the DCCU & the upcoming Justice League film in 2017 (after Dawn of Justice in 2016) is SUPER, man!


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